(As the holidays are upon us, I’m falling into an even slightly less formal mood…)

You’ve probably heard that at Microsoft, we spend a lot of time on user experience design.  Many iterations, lots of psychological evaluation (of the software, not the engineers), and some pretty sophisticated usability laboratory testing.

Up front, we also develop a number of conceptual mockups (screenshots or slide decks) that demonstrate to everyone the vibe that we are aiming for.  These serve as inspiration throughout the product cycle.

For PowerPivot, we also took the extraordinary step of identifying a screenshot of what we wanted to avoid.  Check out this controller guide from a recent video game:

Explicitly designed PowerPivot to NOT look like this

OK, not really.  This was created by the guys at Penny Arcade, one of my favorite reads.

But the spirit is the same.  How many manuals have you opened, seen something that essentially looked just like this, and then immediately put back down?

Happy Friday 🙂